On Sunday, last weekend, at the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma when I arrived at the track, again at 8am, I realized quickly that there wasn’t much to do. I sat on pit road and watched as fans and VIPs took spins around the track with professional drivers from the Jim Russell Racing School. The whole thing made me wish I owned an Audi, the car of choice for the day’s hot laps.
Eventually, I ducked into Jennifer Azzi’s press conference. As I wrote a few days before the weekend started Azzi was on hand as the race’s Grand Marshal. It was cool to see her and I must admit that I totally missed my opportunity to introduce myself and tell her what an inspiration she’d been to me as a kid. I’m shy, OK. And I have to work up what I’m going to say in my mind before I actually do it and make sure it’s not lame. There never was a perfect time, but whatever, she’s on Twitter and I plan on saying something to her at some point over there.
So let’s talk about Marco Andretti. I don’t know what was up his butt that particular weekend but he was driving around on his scooter with a scowl the entire time. He’s rumored to be dating a Playboy Playmate so you’d think he’d be a little happier but who knows. Maybe he’s irked that he’s not contending for the Championship? His year has been pretty lame, he hasn’t finished better than 4th so far. Or perhaps it’s the fact that his ex-girlfriend is supposedly dating Graham Rahal. Hmm?? I don’t care who you are or what you do that’s gotta be kinda awkward right?
Oh! I forgot to mention that on Saturday I attended a press conference for iRacing.com Motorsports Simulations. They were talking up their agreement with the IRL, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Dallara in creating a virtual Indy 500 where regular people like you and me can drive the infamous racetrack online. Justin Wilson was on hand to extol the amazing realness that is iRacing.com and I couldn’t get over how tall he was. When I walked into the press conference room was standing in front of the doorway right as you walk in and I couldn’t get over the fact that I had to look up at him and he’s a race car driver.
Anywho, I have to say that the iRacing.com simulation is really, really cool. Online sim racing has come a long way, baby. It’s super duper realistic. As the representative from Dallara Automobili said in the press conference, “This is not a video game. Forget. This is simulation.” I wish you could have heard him say that with his Italian accent, it was pure awesomeness. Basically, iRacing.com is no joke.
So back to Sunday, I watched the start of the Indy Lights race from the pits, or as I like to call them, The Coffee Bars. That’s what they look like to me. Plus there’s just so much more openness at IRL races. I felt like I could go pretty much anywhere. During the Indy Lights race people were standing in empty pits, even sitting on the pit road wall, which is impossible to do at a NASCAR race. I didn’t go that far, I love my fave spot at the back of pit road sitting on the little wall up against the grandstands right in front of the start/finish line.
And now it’s time to reflect on why I think it’s so important that more clothing companies like William Rast and Izod get involved in racing. William Rast, a clothing company started by Justin Timberlake and his BFF, Trace Ayala, sponsored the No. 20 Vision Racing team driven by Ed Carpenter. Their merch was like fifty times cooler than anyone elses because their brand and logo was made for clothing. I’d wear one of their hats in a heartbeat ’cause it doesn’t look like your typical racing gear. Izod is a sponsor of the entire IRL and as such you’ve got IRL employees running around in Izod all day looking “classy.” There’s a quality that sticks with you when you see that.
SO it is my fervent hope that more clothing companies will get in the act of sponsoring teams in both IndyCar and NASCAR. Plus, it’s stuff that the drivers and their families could wear in their off-time as well. Couldn’t you see Jimmie and Chandra Johnson rocking Lucky Brand Jeans together? It’d be supercute.
For the IndyCar pre-race festivities I walked out on to the track to watch driver introductions from the start/finish line area with other fans. As it happened I was using the same route as the drivers were to get to the stage area. I got a shot of Hideki Mutoh and Franck Montagny as they walked together behind me. Walking and taking pictures isn’t my specialty, and as such I didn’t realize that Dan Wheldon had been walking beside me for awhile. I was so annoyed I didn’t get a shot of him.
The IndyCar race itself was snoozeville. It started off great, with a melee in the first lap, but after that and until close to the end it was boring as all heck. I hoped that Helio Castroneves‘ bad luck would cause the field to bunch up and maybe give Ryan Briscoe and Hideki the chance to swipe the win from Dario Franchitti, who led the entire race, but it was not to be.
The top three drivers had to come into the media center to do a post-race press conference with the media and it was my first time experiencing Ryan Briscoe. He’s such a cool dude. He just had this relaxed air about him, like he wasn’t cocky or jerky, but just normal. I’m sure you’re saying to yourself “so what?” but that’s not a given with drivers, especially given the fact that he took over the Championship points lead that day.
I really like Dario so it was great to see him win. However I was disappointed his wife, Actress Ashley Judd, was not on hand as it would have been cool to see her reaction. Dario, was another cool cucumber, but I’m thinking some of that might have been the winner’s goblet of wine that he carried into the press conference. As he sat down he jokingly attempted to take another swig of the red wine left in the glass.
My fave moment was when Dario made a veiled jab at Milka Duno’s permanent lame duck status. Someone asked him if there was a ever time during the race that he thought Ryan Briscoe would get past him. Dario said, “The only time was when the 23 car was cruising around in turn eight. The speed differential was such, a flat chicane there, the speed differential must have been 40 miles an hour. So I had to back off and time the pass so Ryan wouldn’t get a run on me. If I’d have gone steaming up there, he would have got running past me. That was the one real worrying point.”
You had to hear his tone when he said “when the 23 car was cruising around.” It was priceless, and I’m pretty sure a few people chuckled.
Tony Kanaan gets a ride back to the garage after the race on Sunday, August 23, 2009 at the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)
Ryan Briscoe speaks with the media on Sunday, August 23, 2009 at the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)
Hideki Mutoh and Franck Montagny walk to the stage for driver introductions on Sunday, August 23, 2009 at the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)
Helio Castroneves walks back to the garage with his girlfriend, Adriana Henao, after the race on Sunday, August 23, 2009 at the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)
It should be noted that I did not Photoshop Dan’s teeth.
Dan Wheldon chats with fans on Sunday, August 23, 2009 at the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)
Dario Franchitti drives into Victory Lane on Sunday, August 23, 2009 at the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)
Dario Franchitti chats with the media on Sunday, August 23, 2009 at the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway (photo credit: The Fast and the Fabulous)